Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Have I Made the Active.com 11 Major Marathon Mistakes?

I'm signed up to run the Loch Ness Marathon in aid of CLAN.  I'd be stoked if you made a donation (here) but realise that you probably barely know me and so are unlikely to feel sufficiently connected to me to warrant financial outlay, even though it is for a very good cause.  In other words, don't sweat it, I hate asking for money.

I'm really excited to run another marathon after doing my first one at Edinburgh in May.  That was a great occasion and I would really recommend it, although it was as hot as hell on the day and I really struggled with the heat.  I've never been to Loch Ness so I'm excited about that too.  The only problem is that my marathon training has, I think, gone completely down the drain.  I say 'I think' because I really don't know.  I started building up my distances and was at about 12 miles for my long runs (although that was a struggle).  Then I suddenly had the Birdathlon idea and was able to run nearly 24 miles in one go on a fairly tough course.  So, if I could run 24, I'm sure I could have managed 26.2 (especially if I had some water for the last 6 miles).  At the moment, I still think I'm recovering from this 24 mile run and may or may not have a slight knee injury, it's one of those funny niggles which might just need a rest.  This has not been helped by me changing my trainers and doing loads more cycling.  My plan is to try a few more long runs, of a distance to be determined by how I am feeling, with the logic being that I am better to rest and recover properly than to push myself.

It really would be good to have a better idea of how my training is going, the 24 mile run gave me a lot of confidence but then the struggle I've had running since has somewhat cancelled that out.  Active.com have published an article titled '11 Major Marathon Mistakes' and I thought it would be a fun exercise to see how my current training, or lack thereof, compares.  Thanks to the Two Gomers for the inspiration.

1. Not Having the Right Time Goal:
This is about aiming for a fast, unrealistic time.  At Edinburgh, which was my first marathon, my time was:

I said that I was aiming for about 4 hours without putting pressure on myself to go under 4 hours.  If I am completely honest, I was a little bit disappointed not to beat 4 hours but was happy to have done the distance and stoked to get my first marathon under my belt.  For my first marathon, although the common advice is to aim to get around, I believe 4 hours was a realistic goal.  Under normal circumstances, I'd be aiming to beat 4 hours at Loch Ness, but, and this is where I have hopefully avoided Major Marathon Mistake number 1, I realise that I have not been training properly and my true and honest aim is to get round and enjoy myself.

0/1 Major Marathon Mistakes.

2. Failing to Include Goal Pace in Long Runs.
A bit difficult to fail this one given that I don't really have a goal pace.  The Birdathlon had an average pace of 9.38 per mile and I'd be very happy with this.  Realistically, I am looking to run between 9 and 10 minute miles which I do very comfortable on all of my runs.  I usually have to slow down, my natural running pace being around 8.30 per mile.

The Active.com article claims that many runners just focus on distance, expecting to run a minute or so per mile faster during the actual race.  No, this is not me, I will be aiming for 9 to 10 minute miles, probably having to slow myself down at the start rather than run at a faster pace than I am used to.

0/2 Major Marathon Mistakes.

3. Trying to Do a Long Run Every Weekend.
Ha Ha, definitely not.  I do think I was guilty of this for my first marathon and often ran when I really was not up for it.  I've definitely been more laid back about my training this time around.  Feeling more positive about my 'training' already.

0/3 Major Marathon Mistakes.

4. Failing to Use Sports Drinks Effectively During the Race.
Ok, I'll be honest, my understanding of nutrition is pretty basic.  I knew after the Birdathlon run that I needed a can of coke or I would pass out (I nearly keeled over waiting to draw money out of the post office).  For the Edinburgh Marathon, I think I took a sports drink after about 8 miles and sipped it for the next mile or so.

Active.com says that 8-10 ounces of sports drink should be consumed 10 minutes before the race and then 5-6 ounces every two miles during the race.  An ounce is approximately one mouthful/swallow so the sips that I take are probably half an ounce.  I definitely have not been doing this.  I usually take cordial to drink on my long runs.  This is something that I should practice because I think it really affected me during the Birdathlon and the Edinburgh Marathon.

1/4 Major Marathon Mistakes (but time to rectify this one).

5. Mixing Sports Drinks with Other Things During the Race.
Not sure about this one.  It says that you shouldn't have gels with sports drinks, that you should not mix water with sports drinks and that you should consume nothing but a sports drink.  I think I would really struggle with this.  The lucozade drinks at the Edinburgh Marathon were really sweet and sickly and I couldn't just drink them could I?  Not sure whether to disregard this one or to count it as a fail?  I guess that, as with number 4, there is still some time to experiment.

2/5 Major Marathon Mistakes (but time to experiment with this one).

6.  Failing to Standardise Pre-Race Meal.
Bah, another nutrition one!  Well I am certainly cautious in this area, the words 'code brown' fill me with fear. On the other hand, I recently ran 5k fuelled by a pint of Stella Artios.  Active recommends that you practice the pre-race meal, giving yourself the same amount of lead in time before your long runs as for your race.  It's a good idea and something that I have not been organised enough/cared enough to do.

3/6 Major Marathon Mistakes (time to practice here too).

7.  Trying Something New on Race Day.
No, not guilty and not planning to.  Next!

3/7 Major Marathon Mistakes.

8.  Not Tapering Properly.
Active.com recommend that no long runs in the month before the race.  The plans I have been following (from Runner's World) leave about a 2 week taper.  I think that this is long enough and plan to try a few more long runs before my taper.  I'm much more able to listen to my body and actually feel more of an accomplishment when I have appropriately cut a long run short, rather than slog out the distance when the last however many miles really hurt.  I think I'm all right here.

3/8 Major Marathon Mistakes.

9.  Emphasising Volume Over Quality in Training.
Err, I think at the moment, I'm successfully not emphasising either!  See above, I think I am better at making sure I get what I want from my training rather than just blindly following the training plan.

3/9 Major Marathon Mistakes.

10. Forgetting that Fitness in the Most Important Predictor of Marathon Success.
Hopefully good news here.  As I have struggled a bit with a knee niggle, I've ramped up my cycling to try to keep my fitness up.  I've noticed real gains in my cycling fitness so hopefully this will transfer to my running.

3/10 Major Marathon Mistakes.

11. Thinking that Walking During the Race will Improve Your Marathon Time.
No, I don't think this.  Weird one this, maybe Active.com should have stopped at 10.

3/11 Major Marathon Mistakes.

Well I obviously need to consider my nutrition strategy a bit more and include it in any long runs that I manage to do.  There is time for me to do this, I could also probably do it on some bike rides as well.  This exercise has been really useful for me.  Writing about it has made me think about each point rather than, as would usually be the case, skimming over the article and not paying it much attention.  Hope you find it interesting and/or useful.  If not, I offer no refunds for the time you will never get back.

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